Reactions to Death in 'THE GREATER GOOD' and 'IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE'
IAXS Project # 055
By Anita Firebaugh (Bluesong@aol.com)
Content © 1996 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 1996 held by Whoosh!
 The episodes THE GREATER GOOD (episode #21) and IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (episode #23) of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS shared a plot contrivance. In both episodes a different lead character 'died'. In THE GREATER GOOD, the character Xena died of poisoning dispensed from a dart. In IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, the character Gabrielle died after being attacked by a soldier.
 Although both women had strong reactions to the death of the other, Gabrielle appeared to be the emotionally stronger of the two. Xena depended upon Gabrielle to such an extent that she could not allow Gabrielle to die. Xena's emotional tie to Gabrielle was shown in great depth when Gabrielle crossed over to the other side. Gabrielle, on the other hand, was able to kiss Xena goodbye; go beat up a tree; and then continue with the business at hand.
 Xena's death in THE GREATER GOOD was anticipated throughout the show. After being hit with the poison dart, Xena knew she was in trouble, but had no way to determine the extent of the poison. Her illness forced Gabrielle to take on the roll of Xena in an effort to protect Salmoneous and some innocent villagers from a ruthless warlord. While Gabrielle was away doing Xena's bidding and carrying out Xena's plan, Xena became weaker and weaker.
 Xena did not die in Gabrielle's presence. In fact, she died alone, unattended by anyone. This spoke volumes about the nature of Xena's character -- the lonely, solo warrior who valiantly carried everything inside and shared nothing, not even her death. Her lifeless body was discovered by Salmoneous. In a very moving scene, he went to her prone body and rolled her over.
 "Xena? Xena." Salmoneous gently shook the warrior. "This is a trick, right? Come on." He checked for a pulse; put his hand above her mouth in search of a breath. Finding none, he laid her down. "Proud warrioress", he lamented, "I will miss you."
 Gabrielle, having been exposed as a fraud by the warlord, returned to Xena, expecting to find her mentor ready to offer more plans. She ran into the room where Xena laid. "Xena! Xena! We've got trouble."
Salmoneous stopped Gabrielle. "Wait a second."
"Salmoneous get out of my way," Gabrielle said.
Salmoneous put his hands on Gabrielle's forearms. "Wait a second!"
 The camera showed a covered body. Gabrielle walked slowly to the cover, and then pulled it back, revealing Xena. Gabrielle knelt beside the deathbed of her friend. She looked at her friend in confusion. Gabrielle appeared puzzled, unaccepting, then sad. She combed Xena s hair on her forehead, and played with the long hair about the warrior's neck. She sniffed, wiped at her nose, then kissed Xena on the cheek. She accepted the fact that her friend was dead.
Gabrielle kisses Xena goodbye for what she thinks is the last time
 Gabrielle then laid her cheek against her friend's in a final farewell. Throughout this scene, the camera cut from Gabrielle's actions to Salmoneous, who watched, interrupting the viewer's focus on Gabrielle's reaction to Xena's death.
"OK. There's nothing we can do here," Salmoneous said finally.
 Gabrielle got up. Salmoneous said he thought he and Gabrielle should leave. But Gabrielle prepared a defense against the warlord. "This is not about you or me, Salmoneous. We are staying and fighting for the greater good." Gabrielle then stalked out, grabbing her staff from Argo's saddle as she went. She found a lonely place in the woods and beat a tree to splinters using her staff, crying and shouting "no, no" before collapsing and sobbing into her hands. As she sat there, she pulled herself together, muttering, "I have to...Xena said to focus."
 The next time we saw Gabrielle, she was watching the warlord attempt to tear Xena's carcass to bits, and her anger spurred her to fight off a large number of men in an effort to reclaim the body.
 When Xena returned from the dead, Gabrielle's reaction was one of thrill and delight, but not surprise. The warlord and Salmoneous both questioned Xena's return, but Gabrielle simply called out her name. As soon as Gabrielle was free from the man holding her, she went to Xena. "Glad to have you back. Don't ever do this again." She grabbed Xena's arm.
Xena then looked past her friend and said, "Gabrielle, we're in the middle of a fight."
 But Gabrielle did not let the issue go after the warlord's defeat. "I am angry with you. I mean, I really thought that you were...you know," she told Xena at the end. Xena did not dismiss the anger, but neither did Gabrielle show it. She simply expressed how she felt and Xena accepted it.
 Xena, on the other hand, could not express how she felt when Gabrielle died in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE. Gabrielle was wounded unexpectedly, having wandered off from the security of the healing temple which Xena, Gabrielle and Ephiny (an Amazom whom the women had met in the episode HOOVES AND HARLOTS, episode #10), were occupying during a war battle.
 Xena tended to Gabrielle, and tried to heal her. She expressed remorse at bringing Gabrielle into the midst of a battle while Gabrielle lied unconscious. "My pride may have cost me my best friend," Xena told Marimax, an army general who befriended them. Xena felt guilty and responsible for Gabrielle s condition.
Xena, distraught, creates CPR just in time
 When Gabrielle died, she did so in Xena's arms. Unlike Xena, Gabrielle was a people-person, and it was only fitting that others were around her in a time of great need. Gabrielle let out a strange gasp. Xena was beside her, holding her right hand. "Gabrielle, come on. You re going to be fine." But Gabrielle began having convulsions. Then suddenly, silence.
"She's dead." Hippocrates said.
Xena after bringing Gabrielle back from death
 "She is NOT dead," Xena said. Her face was tearful, her voice angry. "I wouldn't let her. Come on Gabrielle. Wake up! Come on, wake up. Come on, wake up! You re scaring me. Wake up. Wake up!"
 Note that Xena refused to give up; she was faced with a loss of control and could not deal with it. Unlike Gabrielle, who immediately accepted what she saw when Xena died, Xena refused to accept what was before her.
 "Gabrielle, breathe. Come on breathe." Xena pulled Gabrielle into her arms, and sobbed. Then she laid her back down. "Maybe she just needs air...I need to get some air in her lungs." Xena then gave Gabrielle three breaths. "Come on, breath. Oh..." Xena leaned back, sobbing, perhaps finally realizing she had no control over Gabrielle's condition.
"She's in a much better place,." Hippocrates said.
 Xena's anger overcame her. "Get out of my way!" She pushed Hippocrates so hard he must have fallen. "You don't know anything." She turned back to Gabrielle and cradled her. "Don't you listen to him. I know you're in there. Prove me." She caressed Gabrielle s face, shook her gently. "You can show them. Come on. Wake up and breathe. You never ran from anything in your whole life. Come on! Fight! Fight!" She shook Gabrielle again. Xena's body was convulsed with sobs.
Marimax intervened. "Xena. Xena! It s time to stop now. Let her cross over peacefully."
 Xena looked angrily at Marimax while Gabrielle laid in her arms. "What do you know? You ve killed so many."
Marimax looked directly at Xena. "So have you. Let it go."
 "No. No! Come on Gabrielle. Come on! Come on." Xena began pounding on Gabrielle's chest. "Don't leave me. Don't you leave me. Don't leave me. Don't leave me." She hit Gabrielle on the chest a few more times. "Wake up! Wake up!" Xena was in the throws of angry, passionate sobs. "Wake up!" This final pound upon Gabrielle's chest brought the young girl back from the land of the dead. Surprised, Xena pulled her to her bosom and held her close.
 When Xena was proclaimed to be a god returned, she tearfully said "It was Gabrielle who performed the miracle, didn't cha?" Xena held Gabrielle's cheek, caressed her, and kissed her on the forehead twice. Xena nearly lost someone dear to her. When she kissed Gabrielle, Xena acknowledged the need to have someone close to her for perhaps the first time since she took up the sword.
 Later, as they left the temple, Gabrielle offered Xena her thanks for saving her life. Xena responded by taking her arm and allowing her to lean on her.
 In these two very different reactions, we see the common grief cycle. Shock, disbelief, protest, fear, anger, and despair are all very common emotions one deals with when faced with loss. Gabrielle appeared to be the most emotionally healthy of the two, however. Grieving is a way to honor one's own pain, to let go of the past, and move into the present. Gabrielle did this when she left Xena's body and went out into the woods, where she cried alone and gathered her thoughts in preparation for the next part of her life -- a life without Xena.
 Xena could not do this when Gabrielle died. Xena's tears stemmed from her own guilt for having brought Gabrielle into danger in the first place, and for her inability to bring her back from the dead. She could not bear the thought of being alone, as her pleas of "Don't leave me!" indicated. Marimax went straight to the point with Xena, telling her that she had killed many; Gabrielle was just another one. But Gabrielle was not just another person to Xena.
 Xena had buried countless men and soldiers, watched villages burn, seen women and children die (whether at her command or not), and she had little remorse. Xena's remorse at Gabrielle s death was so great as to force her to cease functioning as anything other than the person who needed Gabrielle to be there for her. It was conceivable that Gabrielle's death would have forced Xena over some dark precipice from which she would never return.
 People experience many losses throughout life. Gabrielle, being young, had little experience in dealing with death, yet she handled the death of her best friend in a more emotionally mature way than Xena. Xena had seen death a thousand times over, and knew she would see it again. She had lost men in her army, and even more important, members of her own family. Her reaction to her loos of Gabrielle was extremely pronounced as to almost be totally out of character with the warrior woman who was so tough, emotionless, and need-less that her distress, grief, and guilt combined to keep her from allowing Gabrielle to die peacefully. It is conceivable that Xena would have held Gabrielle's body and/or administered CPR for hours or until several people finally forcibly pulled her away. Would Xena have then been able to bury her friend and move on? Her actions seem to indicate that this would not be so. Her inability to express her grief would find Xena only angrier, lonelier, and more at a loss than before she met Gabrielle.
 In conclusion, it is apparent that even though Xena may be the more experienced of the two travelers, Gabrielle is the most emotionally mature. Her life will not end if Xena dies. Somehow she will go on. One cannot be certain of this with Xena, however. Her anguish at Gabrielle s death was such that it is probable her emotional maturity would once again stop developing or nose-dive back to her pre-Hercules days, when rampaging anger was her driving force.